By Karen Arnstein, Ed.D.
As I sit here with my hot cup of coffee on a fall morning, I think about what the future will look like. SENG has settled comfortably into this new century, and with hard work and dedication, it is poised to remain a strong, supportive organization into the future. Although my time is almost up as a SENG board member, I am proud of the work everyone put forth to modernize this important organization. As a parent of a twice-exceptional teenager, SENG still plays an important role in my life, and I will be forever grateful for the lifeline they extended to me in the early days. I’m sure many of you may feel the same. During this season of giving thanks, I am thankful for SENG, the experiences, and friends I have made along the way, as well as the professional growth gained during my time as a board member. I am thankful I had the opportunity to give back, or as some say, pay it forward.
Yet, it is a privilege to reflect upon the future in my climate-controlled home, confident in knowledge that I will have food and clean drinking water. With all the comforts we enjoy in the United States, the future seems uncertain. War in the middle east has sparked several conversations as my son navigates heated conversations at school. On Thursday, October 12th, I was bluntly reminded of my privilege as I debated whether my child should go to school the next day. Do all parents feel this way around the world? Thankfully, that sick feeling lasted only a few hours. I cannot imagine living with this worry and fear every day.
After the 9/11 attacks, many of us asked ourselves what we can do for our country, for our fellow citizens who were suffering. I believe we are facing that same inflection point 22 years later and a half a world away. The pain we feel for our fellow humans is immeasurable. Maybe this is the time and the way to move forward into the future. We have come so far as a society. It is widely accepted that enslavement is despicable, that you cannot kill someone for who they love, and that you cannot force someone into relations without their consent. We have traveled a long road to recognize the dignity of others who are different from ourselves, but the work is not finished. We must continue this work to include the cognitively neurodiverse (gifted, twice or multiexceptional) into the fold.
There are many arguments for why we should support gifted education in the United States. They started in the late 1950’s with the launch of Sputnik and the search for the best and brightest minds to beat the Soviets. There are many who believe that cognitively diverse students owe society to make it a better place for everyone. Somehow, gifted children were blessed with these endowments, and some believe it is their obligation to serve society. What many do not understand is the asynchronous development that extends beyond childhood as they navigate a world that does not understand their sensitivities and intensities. From the outside looking in, it may appear simple, yet it is an ethical argument. Do the cognitively diverse not have ownership of their own lives? What about their ontological purpose? Do they not have the same right to do what makes them happy and fulfilled? Are they not guaranteed the same level of dignity to choose their path forward? The future is filled with the same questions we have grappled with for 60 years. I am hopeful not because the world is different, but because we are different.
Dr. Karen Arnstein is a graduate of the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver where she earned an Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with a Specialization for the Gifted. Dr. Arnstein is a consultant, speaker, and author dedicated to helping teachers and school districts understand how to identify and provide a strengths-based curriculum while simultaneously addressing challenges of twice-exceptional students. She is the co-founder and Director of Technology at Sierra Gifted Educational Services, a non-profit dedicated to bringing enrichment opportunities and resources to gifted and twice-exceptional students.